Oklahoma City Bad Faith Insurance Lawyers
Representing Oklahoma policyholders in actions against insurance companies
When you purchase an insurance policy, you expect it to cover you in times of loss. But what do you do if your agent acted negligently? Or if your insurance company gives you the run-around to deny a valid claim? These are acts of bad faith by insurance companies – and as a policyholder, you have legal recourse to seek compensation.
At Cunningham & Mears, our Oklahoma City lawyers protect policyholders from unfair denial, undervaluation of claims and other unscrupulous tactics used by insurance companies. We handle first-party claims on behalf of homeowners and businesses throughout Oklahoma. You can trust us to protect your rights if you have been a victim of bad faith insurance tactics.
What is a “bad faith” claim?
Most of us pay on our insurance policies for years in good faith, expecting that we will receive benefits as promised when we need them. After all, we signed the contract with the implied agreement of good faith and fair dealing: we pay our monthly premiums, and if something goes wrong, the insurance company will support us when we need them.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. When an insurance company unreasonably refuses to meet its obligations under your insurance policy, it is considered bad faith. The most common examples of bad faith include:
- Unreasonable denial of benefits
- Undervaluation of a claim
- Refusal to pay the full amount of claim owed
- Failure to investigate a claim
- Unreasonable delay in investigating a claim
- Misrepresentation of benefits and coverage
- Failure to explain why a claim was denied
- Unreasonable interpretations of policy language
- Unreasonable delay in processing a claim
- Imposing arbitrary deadlines or time limits to make a claim
- Failure to disclose policy limits
- Failure to defend the insured against third party claims
- Redefining what constitutes necessary medical procedures, home repairs or auto repairs in order to deny a partial or total claim
- Forcing a claimant into litigation in order to delay offering a fair settlement amount
- Acts of agent negligence
- Issuing a fraudulent policy
- Not putting the paperwork through on the policy you purchased
Insurance companies are businesses, and like most businesses their goal is to make a profit. They do so by collecting more in premiums than they pay out on claims. Most insurers will use any excuse to avoid paying your claim altogether, or at least minimizing the amount paid.
Our Oklahoma City bad faith attorneys work only for policyholders, not for insurance companies. We prepare an aggressive case at the outset to force insurance companies to follow their policies and provide you with the compensation you need.
What types of insurance policies can be subject to bad faith practices?
The type of policy does not really matter. An insurance company can deny a claim, delay payment, offer lowball or partial payment, and/or refuse to defend an insured against third-party claims regardless of the type of policy. At Cunningham & Mears, we represent Oklahoma clients in first party claims involving:
- Homeowners’ insurance and residential claims
- Life insurance
- Health insurance
- Credit insurance
- Disability insurance
- Liability insurance
- Commercial property insurance
- Commercial liability insurance
- Auto insurance
- UM/UIM coverage
- Personal injury settlements
What events can lead to bad faith?
Certain types of acts, like selling fraudulent policies, are exceedingly rare. More often than not, bad faith actions arise from a company refusing to pay fair value on a claim. Certain acts and events are more likely to lead to an insurance claim than others, including:
- Storm damage, like tornados or earthquakes
- Weather damage, like hail or wind
- Fire damage (inside and out), like ash, smoke, and soot
- Water damage, like flooding, burst pipes, or back-uped sewers or sump pumps
- Defective products, including auto parts or appliances
- Negligent drivers
- Unexpected deaths, or deaths deemed “suspicious”
- Prescriptions of a-typical medical treatments or medications
In each of these cases, your insurer may deny your claim, saying the event was not covered under your policy.
For example, say that a hail storm comes through and breaks a window in your attic, and then the storm turns to rain. You have a policy that covers hail damage, so you make a claim. The insurer agrees to pay for the price of the window, but not for any internal damage the rain caused, claiming that it was not caused directly by the hail, and is therefore not covered in your policy.
These are the types of “tricks” an insurer may play in order to avoid paying out the full cost of your claim.
Bad faith litigation in Oklahoma
If the insurance company is unwilling to treat you fairly litigation may be the only effective, and efficient, option. Many times, an insurance company will offer a more fair and just settlement right from the start, simply because you have hired a lawyer. It you are not offered a better settlement, then your attorney can represent you in trial.
How much is my bad faith claim worth?
Your bad faith claim may be worth more than your original insurance claim. This is because Oklahoma wants to discourage insurance companies from being unfair or negligent; as such, you may be entitled to additional compensation for:
- The original amount of your claim;
- Any loss of income or other financial losses that you accrued (such as lost wages, or lost revenue through business interruption claims);
- Punitive damages.
Punitive damages may only be limited in one of three ways:
- Either the value of your claim; or
- $500,000.00; or
- Unlimited damages if the Court finds the insurance company’s conduct was sufficiently cruel.
Help from a knowledgeable bad faith insurance lawyer in Oklahoma City.
Each attorney at Cunningham & Mears is committed to protecting your rights by negotiating with insurance adjusters or aggressively suing for bad faith. We also assist clients with insurance coverage litigation if coverage or benefits are disputed. Because the goal of our firm is to put you in a better position after you contact us, we will always tell you if you do not need an attorney and the best way to handle your claim. To learn more about our services, contact us or call 405-232-1212 today for a free initial consultation.